Kaieteur News – A vaccination crisis has now erupted. The Minister of Health has done an amazing job in sourcing COVID-19 vaccines for the entire adult population, including the single-jab Johnson and Johnson vaccines, 100,000 Sinophram doses from China, and additional Sputnik V vaccines.
Billions of dollars have been allocated for acquiring vaccines. This money is now in jeopardy because of vaccine hesitancy.
The vaccines are there to immunise persons but the vaccination rate has slowed to a drip. Each day, instead of thousands of unvaccinated persons receiving their first dose, it is only a few hundred that are turning up at the vaccination sites.
If this continues, the government will end up with billions of dollars’ worth in vaccines and no takers. Vaccines have a shelf life. If persons are not coming forward to receive their jabs, the government will be left with hundreds of thousands of vaccines for which they would have paid or will have to pay for.
There is no return policy on these vaccines. You order you have to pay whether it is used or not. In addition, if you don’t use it, you have to give it away or dump it.
This is why there is all this talk about ‘consequences’ for not being vaccinated. It is a tad strange that this is only now becoming an issue.
All along, it was a case that the people have a right to be vaccinated and no one will be forced to take the vaccine. All along, it was a case that you do not have to take the vaccine but you have to wear your masks in public and practice social distancing. No one was saying that unvaccinated workers wearing their masks and practicing social distancing were threatening the health of their co-workers.
But now that there is a high possibility of vaccine spoilage, there is talk about ‘consequences.’ It is now being touted, for example, that unvaccinated health workers should not be allowed to treat patients.
People are now being told that you still have a right not to take the vaccine but if you do not there are certain things, which you may not be able to do, including possibly losing your right to work alongside others even if you wear a mask. This is an attempt to coerce persons to take the vaccine.
The Advisor to the Minister of Health, Leslie Ramsammy, says there are consequences for being unvaccinated. He uses a false equivalence to buttress his argument. He refers to the right of persons to smoke but says that they are not allowed to smoke in public places.
He says that the same principle can be applied to taking the vaccine. Ramsammy explains: “You are free not to take the vaccine. It is your right but you cannot then put my life at risk; and this is what public health is about.”
This is not only false equivalence but it is mischaracterisation of public health. Persons have a right to smoke but the law reserves the right, in the interest of public health, to restrict the exercise of that right to only your private and personal spaces.
In the case of the vaccine however, persons have a right, according to the government, to not take the vaccine. But when this is subject to sanctions, then it is not a restriction of the exercise of that right but rather an attempt to sanction them for exercising that right.
The Private Sector Commission of Guyana endorsed the view that “if you want to exercise a right to not take the vaccine you must be prepared to face the consequences.” It also stated that there is growing judicial opinion that individual rights do not override the collective good where the good of the collective is threatened.
The Commission further stated that it is prepared to support all and any action taken by the government that will serve to protect the population from the surge of this pandemic. But is the Private Sector Commission (PSC) now prepared to support a lockdown seeing that vaccination alone cannot achieve herd immunity and that vaccination by itself will not end the pandemic.
China, the world’s most populous country, brought its pandemic under control through a lockdown. Lockdowns have been used in India to quell surging infections.
But the PSC is not likely to ever lend its support to a lockdown because lockdowns affect its financial interests. But it will support actions being taken against those who seek to exercise their right to not be vaccinated.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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